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Partygoers beware, a Greek gator lurks

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hedgehogs, alligators and bunnies, oh my! Some students are living with more than just a roommate.

Due to health and safety concerns, the Office of Residential Life does not allow students to keep pets in dorms, according to Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential and dining services.

“You can have a small fish tank with fish,” and in approved cases, service animals, he said. “That’s about as good as your pets are going to get.”

Unless, of course, you break the rules. Bova said he has heard of students having all sorts of pets, including cats, dogs, snakes, “large amphibious-type things” and turtles.

“All things are possible at Brown,” he said.

‘Alligators don’t like leashes’

Nicholas Faber ’12 and Derrick Duquette ‘12.5 got an alligator at the beginning of their sophomore year, when they lived together in Chapin House as Theta Delta Chi brothers. They said they were inspired by a senior friend who had a baby alligator that died.

“It was definitely spur of the moment,” Faber said.

The pair named the gator Chubbs after a character in the 1996 movie “Happy Gilmore.” Less than a foot long when they acquired him, Chubbs is now over 2 1/2 feet in length, Faber estimated. Faber and Duquette also kept him in their junior year Chapin room.

Duquette, who now keeps the alligator in their off-campus house, said he lets Chubbs go free around his room but not around the house. “He loves to hang out in the bottom shelf of my TV stand.”

Duquette refers to Chubbs as a “guard alligator,” though the gator has never attacked anyone. In fact, Chubbs is scared of people, he said. “We’re like giants to it.”

In previous years, “we’d let it hang out on the porch with us” when fraternity brothers were relaxing outside Chapin in nice weather, Duquette said. He and Faber showed Chubbs to people at parties and would sometimes bring him downstairs to the lounge, always holding him to make sure he did not escape, Duquette added.

An on-campus alligator can be an unexpected sight. “They’re kind of shocked to find out it’s actually an alligator,” Faber said. “It was definitely a good talking point.” People now ask about Chubbs “all the time,” he said.

Chubbs currently lives with two turtles and eats rats and fish, Duquette said. The pair was unsuccessful in its attempts to make the gator a vegetarian.

The two also made a leash for Chubbs, but “alligators don’t like leashes,” Faber said. “We tried to train him. That didn’t work out that well either.”

‘Hide the pets from ResLife’

Nate Bowling ’08 and his suitemates picked up their African pygmy hedgehog after it was advertised on the website Daily Jolt.

Bowling and his friends “looked at this beast of a creature,” decided “we definitely want this” and paid about $35 or $40 for it, he said. They decided to name the small creature — “the size of a potato, maybe” according to Bowling — Kugel.

“I thought a hedgehog was pretty hilarious, and it was, most of the time,” Bowling said.

But looking back, “I’m sure (the seller) got rid of it because it was so heinously mean,” Bowling said. When he and his friends went to pick up the hedgehog, it bit one of them — a sign of events to come.

Bowling said they used a window screen to close off part of their Graduate Center suite bathroom, letting Kugel have free reign of the space. One time, a student from next door came to use the bathroom, unaware he was entering the hedgehog’s residence. “He was peeing, and the thing just runs up and bites his foot,” Bowling said.

“I thought it was fun. I don’t think most of my roommates thought it was fun,” he said.

Sometimes Kugel was messy. When the suitemates returned one night after a fire alarm, they found Kugel had “defecated and urinated all over,” said Megan Schmidt ‘08.5, one of Bowling’s suitemates.

Visitors to the suite “all thought it was cute, unless they tried to hold her,” Bowling said — though a hedgehog is “slightly more pleasant than, say, an alligator.”

“It drew blood from at least one visitor who thought holding a hedgehog would be cute and fun, which it was neither,” he said.

After junior year, during which Bowling lived off campus, Kugel died from Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, he said.

The suitemates were never caught with the hedgehog. “The great thing about Brown is they tell you” when dorm room inspections will be conducted, Bowling said, adding that he would hide Kugel in his closet during inspections.

“Students are very creative. They shuffle the animal around,” Bova said. “It’s kind of like, hide the pets from ResLife.”

Lost and found

Early in his freshman year, Joe Goldberg ’12 and his roommate bought a bunny and named it Sophia Rose Maddox 223.

“I really like bunnies,” Goldberg said. “I thought that was a feasible dorm room pet, even though that wasn’t allowed.”

“Once I thought it was trained — which was naive — I let it just chill out in the room while I was in class,” he said. “It pooped all over.”

Sophia hopped away in a garden one time and would not come back, Goldberg said. He left to go to class and could not find her when he came back later. A junior living on his hallway finally caught the bunny.

Sophia “was a big pull for the ladies” during a Halloween party in his room, Goldberg joked.

Goldberg said he kept the bunny in a cage in his room and was never caught by ResLife. After six or seven weeks, he sold it on Craigslist. “What wa
s I going to do with it for Thanksgiving?”

He said he thinks people choose to have pets for companionship or to have “a pet for show.”

“Freshman year, people had fish — they all died, showing that college freshmen are not capable of caring for a fish, which says a lot,” Bowling said.

See you later, gator

“We do occasionally get a complaint if someone has an animal on a hallway,” Bova said, citing dog barking as an example. Pets have been found this way and through dorm room health and safety inspections.

Bova said pets are found about once a year, though none have been found yet this year. “Rarely do we get complaints about it,” and “rarely do we discover it,” he said.

If an animal is found, students are given 24 hours to “move the animal to an appropriate place” such as a student’s home, an animal shelter or the apartment of a friend living off campus, Bova said. ResLife has never had an issue of students refusing to comply.

ResLife found out about Chubbs last spring, Faber said, and told him and Duquette to remove it.

Duquette said he sent the alligator home — where it had already stayed over winter break — for the short remainder of the semester. He is not sure how ResLife found out about it.

Keeping the alligator is not a problem now that Faber and Duquette live off campus. They plan to take Chubbs to a zoo in Maine after they graduate. “They have an alligator exhibit,” Duquette said.

Pets are largely banned for a number of reasons, including allergies, noise, some students’ fears of animals, fleas, fur and “the mess it leaves behind,” Bova said. Another major concern is that students will leave pets unattended in their dorm rooms over winter break.

While ResLife occasionally gets complaints about dogs barking or allergy problems, “I have not heard of any illegal pets attacking other students,” he said.

Bova said he is sympathetic to students who want to keep pets.

“I am a huge, huge lover of dogs,” he said. The “best way to have a pet is when you’re a senior and you’re eligible to live off campus,” he said. “Find a landlord who is pet-friendly, and have your dog with you.”

Or alligator.

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